Three Ways to Make Golf More Professional in 2013

Cape Times (South Africa), February 28, 2013 | Go to article overview

Three Ways to Make Golf More Professional in 2013


NEVER before has South Africa been blessed with so many superb players on the international tours. I can remember the "good old days"; in fact, I even played a small part. In the early fifties, Bobby Locke was the best golfer in the world, in the sixties and seventies Gary Player was the best, along with Jack Nicklaus. Now, for the first time, we have a large group of potential winners in every tournament they play.

But before I allow myself to get upbeat about the future of our golf scene, I have to get a few things off my chest.

As much as anyone, I love to watch great golf played by the best golfers in the world. But it's those very same golfers who are ruining the game for everyone else. Okay, only about 1% of golfers are professionals, or even elite amateurs, but here's the top three ways that these one-in-a-hundred are hurting golf as we know it.

1 Distance: They hit the ball so far, it's ridiculous. They have psyched most golf clubs into believing that the only answer is to lengthen our courses. Others have tried placing water hazards, bunkers and long rough to penalise the long hitter.

2 Course conditioning: All golfers want their courses to look like the immaculate ones they see on TV. Ninety-nine percent of our golf clubs do not or cannot charge enough yearly subscriptions and green fees to offer perfection.

3 Slow play: On the European Tour, they plan on a two-ball taking four hours to play 18 holes on courses like East London and Royal Johannesburg & Kensington. To make that sound even worse, they don't stop for halfway house. A regular club four-ball with a halfway-house break would take 5A1/4 to 51/2 hours. That's ridiculous and is exactly why many people are leaving the game. It simply takes too long. Jack Nicklaus invented slow play and now almost the entire Tour has perfected it.

My other gripe has nothing to do with Tour golf, but rather highlights what is essential in making golf the greatest game of all. It is so unique that it is the only sport where a club golfer could compete on a level playing field with a pro golfer or player with a single-digit handicap.

The handicap system: Most golfers play for fun and relaxation. Some play for competition, but all golfers love golf, to be fair. Up until a few years ago, golf was close to being fair. There were a few dishonest golfers who put in incorrect scores and manipulated their handicaps, but they were in the minority. We need to get back to those days and we need to do it quickly.

I don't know of another country where golf is played as competitively as in South Africa. Britain, Japan and America are not like that. …

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